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A COMPLETE GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD(REN) NATURAL HAIR.

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

WARNING: I have consolidated everything you need to know about kids natural hair, tips on how to get your child(ren) excited about washing/styling their hair, what type of hair you are working with, what texture and porosity, the basic tools you need to care for natural hair, hair product recommendations and more. This is the only article you will need to get you started in your child(ren) hair care journey, so grab your coffee and take notes!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission if you click one of the links and make a purchase through that link. I would never recommend a product or anything else that we haven't tried ourselves and while I am not a professional hair stylist, I am an expert at handling my kid's curly hair and I am hoping you can become one too!


What I’ve learned about having two curly toddlers is that you HAVE to make their hair care routine fun! At that age kids sense our stress and I can personally say washing/combing my kid’s hair was not the most exciting task on my to-do list. I started to approach their hair care routine differently when I realized I was the one that did not want to wash/style their hair. It was a long process, someone always ended up crying and detangling was like fighting an alligator. How can a two and a four year old possibly be excited about something they know stresses their mama out?


I want to empower my kids, I want them to look in the mirror and love what they see, I want to teach them about the importance of taking care for their bodies, what they eat, how to care for their hair. I know caring for your kid’s hair can be challenging, especially to moms that don’t have curly hair themselves. It’s like assembling an IKEA furniture without instructions.


I figured out a way to make the process of deep conditioning, washing and styling my kid’s hair fun for them and for me!!! Here are some of the things we do that changed their curly hair journey:


- First and most important thing: CHANGE YOUR MIND SET, have fun with it, make it fun for them.

- Pick a day of the week to do it, kids love routine!! (you can always co-wash their hair as needed).

- They help me make all of the DIY deep conditioning treatments and flaxseed gel: making them a part of the process is very important, IT IS THEIR HAIR AFTER ALL. They gather all of the ingredients and I let them measure and blend them (with my help of course).


- I let them apply the hair products. Again, inclusion will be your best strategy. Before I apply any product I put some in their hands and explain why we use it and how to apply it.




- I get them excited by asking them if they want to have beautiful hair like….. (any of their favorite movie characters) Elsa, Moana, etc. Then I explain that all of them take really good care of their hair.

- While applying the deep conditioning treatment I put on a movie of said character, give them some snacks or I bring a doll and a brush so they can also make their doll look beautiful.

- When it is time to detangle we bring a doll to the tub and I let them shampoo, condition and brush the doll’s hair while I do the same to their hair.

- I tell them how excited I am to see their beautiful hair when we are done and make sure to mention how nice they look throughout the day.


Now that we talked about how to get them to enjoy the process, let's talk about the process itself. The first thing you need to know is what type of hair you are working with, it's texture and porosity. This information will allow you to make an informed decision when buying products for your child(ren). Believe it or not, the use of wrong products could be the cause of your loved one super dry, brittle, dull and frizzy hair.


Your child(ren) Hair texture, density and porosity.


Hair Texture


Hair Texture refers to the size of each individual hair strand:


COARSE MEDIUM FINE


Fine: has the smallest circumference, the hair strand is very thin. It usually lacks volume, it’s oily and can’t hold curls very well.



Medium: it is the most common type of hair. Easy to style and holds its shape longer.


Coarse: has the thickest circumference. More resistant to breakage and has an open cuticle making the hair more porous.


Hair Density


Often confused with hair texture. Hair density is associated with the number of hair strands growing out of the scalp. It doesn't refer to the thickness of the strand but the quantity of hair in the scalp. The best way to determine hair density is by the thickness of the ponytail.


Low density: the hair strands are not very close to each other. When the hair is washed and down without any products you can clearly see the scalp and when the hair is pulled back in a ponytail it has a small circumference.


Medium Density: when the hair is washed and down without products you can barely see the scalp.

High Density: the hair strands are packed together and when the hair is washed and down without any products you can't see the scalp at all. The circumference of the ponytail is more than four inches.


Pictured below High density to the left, medium density to the right.

Hair Type


The shape of the hair follicle will determine the hair type.


Straight Wavy Curly


There are four different type of hair: straight, wavy, curly-coily and coarse-kinky. These hair types are divided into 3 different subcategories: A,B,C.




A pattern is a very wide curl

B has a medium, more defined curl patter

C tight, small pattern


Let's find your child(ren) hair type! We will start off with type 2 which is wavy hair:


TYPE 2


WAVY


Wavy hair tends to be frizzy and is characterized by S shape curls down its length or it can also look straight with slight bend towards the ends. This hair type stands in between straight and curly hair.


2A.

Lacks volume at the root and has loose loops or waves towards the ends. It can easily be straightened and it has a fine texture.


2B.

Defined S shape pattern that usually begins from the mid length to the ends. Tends to be flat at the crown and is frizzier than type 2A. It is more resistant to styling than 2A and has a medium texture.


2C.

The waves are thick and more prone to frizz. The S shape is well defined and starts at the root. It has a coarse texture and is difficult to style.



TYPE 3



CURLY


Curly hair ranges from loose loops to tight corkscrews. This curl patter often resembles a lower case s, upper case S and sometimes even a lower case z or upper case Z. It is climate dependent, gets frizzy in humid conditions. It is prone to damage and if not properly taken care of can look dull and lose definition.


3A.

Loose spirals that present an S pattern. This hair type is usually full bodied and frizzy.



3B.

Has a definite S pattern and curls have a smaller circumference than type 3A. Curls can range from spiral to corkscrew. Tends to be dry and frizzy.


3C.

This hair type was added to the chart when it was clear that there was something missing between 3B and 4a, it is considered very curly hair and it’s characterized for very high volume tight coils and being voluminous. It has the smallest circumference of all three types. From this hair type on the hair tends to be really dry because the ringlets blocks the passage of the natural oil your hair produces.



TYPE 4


KINKY

Contrary to believe kinky hair is the most delicate of all hair types and also the driest. It has small tight coiled or zigzag pattern and it is very high density. Its fragile texture is due to fewer cuticle layers protecting the strand.


4A. usually wiry and fragile, tightly coiled S pattern shape with the circumference of a crochet needle.


Ella has two textures: 3C-4A


4B. it doesn’t really coil or curl but has more of a Z pattern, it has more shrinkage than type 4A. Strands range from wiry and coarse to fine and thin.




4C.

It is also called coily hair. It might look robust, but it is the most fragile type of hair. Breaks easily, lacks definition and tangles a lot. A lot of moisture and heavier styling products are required to keep this hair type healthy.






Hair Porosity

This is probably the most important thing to know about your kid's hair. Moisture retention is the key to healthy, frizz free curls and the only way to achieve this is by using the right products and techniques. By nature, curly hair is dry. The natural oil that the scalp produces to keep our hair moisturized gets trapped in the coils-curls preventing the passage of the oil from the roots to the ends. See the problem? Moisture is the key to healthy curls, but curly hair is naturally dry. There are a few signs that indicate your child(ren) hair lacks moisture: Dryness, brittleness, extreme tangling, frizz.


Hair porosity refers to the ability the hair has to absorb moisture and retain it. The hair porosity will be determined by the kind of cuticle you have. The cuticle’s job in a hair strand is to protect the weaker layers underneath it and it is the only way your hair is able to absorb and retain moisture.


There are three levels of hair porosity:


LOW POROSITY: the cuticles are tight which makes it difficult for water to penetrate the hair shaft, but once you get moisture in it is easily retained. Thicker products like butters, creams and heavy oils will usually sit on top of the hair instead of being absorb, which results in product build up.


Low porosity characteristics:


- Hair takes a while to get completely saturated with water

- Water beads form on top of the hair

- Hair takes a long time to dry

- Oils and creams sit on top of the hair


NORMAL POROSITY: the cuticle is raised just enough to absorb and retain moisture. This hair type needs little maintenance and has a lot of elasticity and bounce. It takes color quickly and looks shiny. I will be focusing on Low and high porosity levels as they are the ones that need more attention.


HIGH POROSITY: the cuticle is wide open, the hair absorbs moisture fast but it will not retain it. Contrary to low porosity, high porosity hair has no problem absorbing water, moisture comes right in but it does not have the ability to retain it. The goal when you have this type of hair is to close the cuticle so it can retain moisture.

High porosity hair characteristics:


-Feels dry and has a dull color

-Hair dries quickly

-Gets frizzy as soon as it dries

-Tangles and brakes a lot

-Absorbs water and moisturizing products easily


Low and high porosity hair need to be treated differently, that is why it is so important to determine which porosity you are working with. With low porosity you need to use light products and oils, but high porosity benefits from thick creams and butters.


Using oils for hair 101


Curly hair benefits immensely from natural oils, they nourish, strengthen and hydrate the hair which helps prevent frizz, but not oils have the same function, some are moisturizing or penetrating and some are sealing oils. The order in which you apply these oils is extremely important because if not properly used they can result in product build up preventing moisture to penetrate into the hair.


Using a moisturizing or penetrating oil before washing your kid's hair will add extra moisture to the hair strands. This is called PREPOO (before shampoo)in the curly hair world and it consists of applying an oil for a minimum of 30-45 minutes before washing with shampoo. Only a few oils have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft, these oils molecular structure are small enough to actually go deep into the hair shaft.


Super moisturizing oils: COCONUT OIL,SUNFLOWER OIL, PALM KERNEL OIL.

Other oils that have the ability to penetrate the cuticle layer are OLIVE OIL, AVOCADO OIL and ARGAN OIL.


Sealing oils: help lock in all the moisture you add to the hair and helps control frizz. These oils should be used as the last step in the styling routine.


Light oils: Grapeseed, sweet almond oil, argan oil, jojoba oil.

Heavier oils: Castor oil, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil.



My all time favorites

I just restocked on my oils, my all time favorite oil is hands down Jojoba oil. Even though it is called an oil, jojoba is actually a liquid wax. It's main components are very similar to our sebum oil which is the natural oil our body produce to keep the skin and hair moisturized, so our hair loves this oil. Great to use as a sealing oil (works great for both low and high porosity).


Grapeseed oil is a very light oil. It contains the most antioxidant out of all antioxidant extracts. Great for sealing in moisture and it does not weight down the hair. I use it in between wash days to add moisture to their hair. I just put some in my hands and gently run them through their hair (works great for low porosity).



Avocado oil is my go to pre poo oil. Rich in vitamin E, oleic acid and monounsaturated fats making this oil one of the few ones that can actually penetrate the hair shaft.


Castor oil is enriched with vitamin E, proteins, minerals, essential fatty acids. It helps balance the scalp PH and it has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. This is a great sealing oil for high porosity hair.


Here is where knowing the hair porosity is important. Some of these oils are heavier than others. If you are working with low porosity it is recommended you use light sealing oils as heavier oils will build up in the hair faster due to it's closed cuticle. When the cuticle is completely saturated with old products there is no space left for the new products you are applying to penetrate. If you notice the products you always use for your kids are not working like they usually do and the hair is frizzy and dull it might be time to clarify their hair.


Often times people reach out to me for guidance on what products they should be using based on their hair porosity. They have usually tried just about everything and nothing seems to work. The first thing I ask is: when was the last time you clarified your hair? if the answer is what is that?, I don't remember or over 3-4 months ago then I am pretty sure we are dealing with product build up. If you are thinking on starting this curly hair journey with your child(ren) I always recommend clarifying their hair first to allow the cuticle to breath and to take in all the moisture.


How often should you clarify your kid's hair?

It all depends on what type of products you use. Heavier products, creams, thicker oils will build up quicker. Once you clarify their hair the first time you will know when it’s time to clarify again. Their hair will look weight down and dry. I've noticed that I need to clarify my 3A daughter monthly and my 3B son every 6 weeks.






Curly Hair Essentials

Butterfly clamps: dividing the hair into 4-6 sections (depending on your child's hair density) for better product distribution and to prevent the hair from tangling.

Spray bottle: using water or a water/leave-in mixture to add moisture to the hair in between wash days. I use this mister to evenly spray water to their hair and to avoid water dripping down their necks or into their clothes (this is a big deal in my house). I got an extra large from a local hair salon, but this one from amazon is perfect too!





Wide tooth comb or a detangler brush : ideally, you should use a wide tooth comb or finger detangle your kid's hair. However, my kids do not like either, so I got an EZ detangler because I'm not going to make the process longer than it needs to be.





Microfiber towel: A regular bath towel can absorb too much moisture and the material can rough up the cuticles resulting in frizz. Use a microfiber towel or a cotton t-shirt because these materials help retain moisture. These are good for kids 1-4. My son will be 5 and it is a little tight, we will be upgrading soon!



Satin Pillow case: protects from the friction between the hair and materials that absorb moisture like cotton, it also prevent frizz and tangles while your kid sleeps. If your child is old enough to wear a satin bonnet, perfect! However, there is no way my almost 3 year old will sleep with a bonnet, so I got satin pillow cases.







Let's create a hair care routine for your child!!


Weekly Wash day routine


Prepoo: using one of the penetrating oil listed above, divide the hair into 4-6 sections depending on the amount and length you are working with. Apply the oil from roots to ends and put a cap on for 30 minutes. This process does not have to be done on every wash day, but I suggest doing it on the days you clarify for extra moisture and if you are dealing with dry, damage hair I suggest doing it every other week.


Shampoo: working in sections will change your life! shampoo your kid's hair one section at a time, it will prevent tangles. Apply the shampoo into your hands and starting at the roots gently massaging the scalp with your fingertips working the lather down to the ends of the hair, repeat this process to each section. (if you are going to use a clarifying shampoo, repeat at least twice)


Deep Condition: this step is the KEY to healthy natural hair! Deep conditioning curly hair is so important that it should be done once a week. Deep conditioning adds nutrients that are essential for the hair, making it feel softer and look healthier. It will help with frizz and restore hair damaged by chemical treatments and heat. You can make your own DIY hair treatments, but store bought work great too and there are some great options out there. Here is the best moisturizing deep conditioner I've found for their hair. If you are dealing with dry, damaged hair this is it! No silicones, no sulfates and no parabens (we will be talking about this soon)



-Apply deep conditioner throughout the hair running your fingers through to prevent it from getting tangled. Apply a generous amount!!!

-Leave the deep conditioner on for 15-30 mins

-Rinse the deep conditioner out.


Condition: A deep conditioning treatment or mask’s job is not to detangle!! although it leaves the hair super soft and it seems like a good time to do it, don't! The time to detangle is when you apply the conditioner. The ingredients found in a conditioner are specifically meant to help detangle the hair, the ingredients in a deep conditioning treatment contain some conditioning properties but it is mainly ingredients that add moisture to the hair.


Leave-in Conditioner: choosing a good leave in conditioner is crucial as this product will stay in your kids hair and you will be adding more as needed between wash days. A water based leave in conditioner is a must, you know because of the whole moisture thing! look for Aqua, water as the first ingredient in the ingredient list. With the hair divided into sections, apply the leave-in from roots to ends.


Now for styling...


You have already figured out your child(ren) hair's porosity by now. Low porosity will need lighter products and the amount of product you apply is also very important. If your kid has low porosity but it has high density, you have to apply a generous amount of product. If you are working with low density too much product will make the hair look weight down.


I am a firm believer of the healing and restorative properties of Flaxseed gel. It is packed with Omega 3, natural proteins and vitamins that make the hair feel so smooth and hydrated while also adding definition and hold. I apply flaxseed gel to my kids hair along with a curling cream for maximum definition, but the gel by itself works perfect too.


This is my all time favorite product from Shea moisture, I use it in conjunction with the flaxseed gel for ultimate definition, but when I don't have flaxseed gel at hand this is my best friend.




Low porosity product application order: Leave-in, flaxseed gel (or any other styling product), and a LIGHT sealing oil.

More tips...

- Damp hair is best when applying products to low porosity hair since the cuticle is tight too much water can make the product slide straight through the hair strand.

- Use a light weight sealing oil like Jojoba oil.

- Use a leave in conditioner that has water (aqua) as the first ingredient.



High porosity product application order: Leave-in, sealing oil, styling cream and flaxseed gel.

More tips...

- Use a heavy leave-in for added moisture, water based products evaporate quickly on high porosity hair.

- Use rich butters and creams.

- Use a heavy oil to seal in moisture like avocado or olive oil.



My product recommendations:


My all time favorite curly hair product is Flaxseed gel! it is super easy to make and it lasts 1-2 weeks if kept in the refrigerator, not to mention it is an all natural product and it works for all hair types and porosity.



Learning to read the ingredient labels on hair products has helped me tremendously when it comes to selecting the best products for my kid's hair. I use natural products without silicone, paraben and sulfates (I will be writing an article soon on what these are, how they affect your kid's hair and what to avoid). To my surprise, while doing research for this article I found a lot of products that are not labeled "KIDS", but contain milder and better ingredients than the actual "KIDS" products. I reached out to these companies to confirm that these are in fact safe to use on kids and they all validated my theory.



We are obsessed with these products! they smell amazing, every time I open one of the bottles my kids say it smells yummy. The shampoo is gentle,the conditioner leaves their hair super soft, the leave-in is also a detangler. Best ingredients I've seen in kids products packed with lots of oils.
The Mane Choice KIDS

We are obsessed with these products! they smell amazing, every time I open one of the bottles my kids say it smells yummy. The shampoo is gentle,the conditioner leaves their hair super soft, the leave-in is also a detangler. Best ingredients I've seen in kids products packed with lots of oils and emollients.


OUR CLARIFYING AND MOISTURIZING ROUTINE


We do this monthly or every six weeks



From left to right: Penetrating oil (avocado), Prewash scalp exfoliant to clarify and remove build up, clarifying shampoo, moisturizing hair mask, conditioner, leave-in, flaxseed gel, Sealing oil (jojoba).


Note: although this Cantu care for Kids shampoo is not labeled as a clarifying shampoo, it does contain a higher amount of surfactants listed in the first five ingredients. I find it to be a great clarifying shampoo, but a little drying when used on a regular basis.


-Leave the penetrating oil on for 20-30 minutes


-Wet the hair, divide into 4-6 sections and gently apply the scalp scrub. Work from root to ends. Leave for 5 minutes, rinse.


-Pour shampoo into your hands and apply to the scalp, using your fingertips gently massage the scalp. Work the lather down to the middle of the hair and slightly to the ends. Rinse one section at the time.


-Apply deep conditioner one section at the time. Leave for 10 minutes (I use this time to scrub them and bombard them with toys to keep them entertained). Rinse.


-Apply conditioner to each section and detangle starting at the bottom. Comb through the knots using your fingers, wide tooth comb or a detangler brush. Rinse.


-Use a microfiber towel or cotton shirt to get some of the excess water off the hair and divide into sections again.


Apply leave-in, flaxseed gel (or any other styling product), and a little bit of sealing oil one section at the time.


EXTRA MOISTURE ROUTINE


We do this weekly



WASH AND GO ROUTINE


We do this routine in between their extra moisture routine, if their hair is too frizzy or if we are going out.

1, 2, 3 REFRESH: BRING THE CURLS BACK TO LIFE IN THE MORNING.


Spray some water throughout the hair to activate the curls, apply leave-in conditioner for added moisture and a little bit of your preferred styling product if needed. In my case I add The Mane Choice Kid's moisturizer and flaxseed gel to get those curls back.


Keep in mind that all hair is different and it will take trial and error to perfect your child(ren) hair routine. You might find that some oils work better than others on your kid's hair. These pictures are simply to give you an starting point.


I will be reviewing a few kids products, breaking down their ingredients and talking about sulfates, silicone and parabens on my next article. Make sure to subscribe to the blog to receive a notification when the article is up!

















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